Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (14). He became ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience – ‘old wine’ – and Gospel obedience – ‘new wine’ (21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God’s Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3,5,7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these ‘religious’ men who planned ‘to destroy Him’ (6)? It is sadly possible to participate in ‘religion’, professing faith in ‘the Son of God’, in an ‘unclean spirit’ (11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
The conflict intensifies. The ‘twelve’ are ‘sent…to cast out demons’ (14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (22). Jesus warns against ‘an eternal sin’ – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (28-30). With the offer of forgiveness – ‘the blood of Jesus…cleanses us from all sin’ – , there is the call to ‘confess our sins’ (1 John 1:7,9). ‘If we say we have no sin’ (1 John 1:8,10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Are you anxious about ‘an unpardonable sin’ ? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’ (1 John 4:17). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God’s thoughts are ‘higher’: ‘Return to the Lord…He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-9).
This is ‘a father’s instructions’ to his ‘sons’ (1). The father has been a ‘son’ (3). He has wrestled with temptation. He has needed the exhortation – ‘Let your heart hold fast…’ (4) – and the warning – ‘Do not turn away…’ (5). Now, we turn to the divine Father and Son. The Father does not keep His distance from us. Through the Son, He has come near to us. Through the Son, we come to the Father (John 14:9,6). When Scripture says, ‘Get wisdom’ (7), it means this: ‘Come to the Father through Jesus the Son’. Wisdom brings ‘a beautiful crown’, ‘the crown of righteousness’, ‘the unfading crown of glory’ (9; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). Be wise. Be ready for the Lord’s Return (Matthew 25:1-13). ‘Purer…higher…greater – Our wonder, our worship, when Jesus we see!’ (Church Hymnary, 374).
God allows His people to suffer difficulties. Why? – To strengthen our faith (15:25; 16:4; Deuteronomy 8:2,16; 1 Peter 1:6-7). He chastens us, to teach us repentance (Revelation 3:19). Don’t forget God’s love. He is faithful: ‘He didn’t bring us this far to leave us’. He shows us His glory (7). He assures us that He is God (12). He provides us with ‘daily bread’ (4). Yesterday’s ‘bread’ is insufficient for today’s challenges (19-20). ‘Morning by morning’, the ‘bread’ is to be gathered (21; Lamentations 3:22-23). Jesus is the Living Bread (John 6:32-35,48-51). Feed on Him each day. Don’t invite spiritual starvation by missing days. If you miss some days, don’t let it continue. Remember: ‘Seven days without prayer makes one weak’! ‘How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?’ Too long? It is time to pray and feed on Jesus!
Worldly people create problems (17:3). Moses asks, ‘What shall I do…?’ (17:4). Indecision asks, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ (17:7). He gives victory (17:8-9,13). Joshua is being equipped for special service – ‘in the ears of Joshua’ (17:14). God’s great concern is that His people move forward together. The work is not to be left to the few (18). God is looking to faithful servants who will ‘bear the burden’ together (21-22). There is much to be done, but we must never forget this: ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:1-4). You may not be a Moses or a Joshua, but you can play your part. We rejoice in who God is and what He has done for us. Assured of His presence with us, let us worship Him: ‘Blessed be the Lord…’ (18:10-11).
Before law, there is Gospel – what God has done for us (4). We are to obey in the Spirit of grace, as those who have been redeemed by His mercy (5-6; 1 Peter 2:9-10). God’s Word is not only for the leader. It is for the whole people of God (3,7,9,11). God speaks to us concerning possession, consecration and reverence. Possession – We are His ‘own possession’ (5). In love, He has claimed us for Himself. We belong to Him. Consecration – God is holy. We are to be holy (10,14; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Reverence – Don’t rush into God’s presence, presuming on His blessing. We must not take God’s blessing for granted. That would be arrogance (21-22). We must come to Him with this humble confidence: God will bless those who truly call upon Him (2 Chronicles 7:14-16). May God help us to say, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ (8).
God does not want to see sin in us (20). He wants to see Himself in us. Sin robs us of His great blessing. He wants to fill us with love (Mark 12:28-31; Galatians 5:14; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). Before our love for Him, there is His love for us. He is the God of redemption. He has redeemed us. We are His people. This is His doing. All the glory belongs to Him (1-2). We are to live as His people. He is to have first place in our lives (3). The ‘law’ is ‘holy’ and ‘good’, but it cannot make us holy and good – without ‘the new life of the Spirit’ (Romans 7:12,6: 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:3). ‘Moses’ cannot save! There is only one Saviour – Jesus! Not under law, we yield ourselves to the God of salvation (Romans 6:13-14). Our obedience comes from faith in Christ – not legalism (Romans 1:5-6)! Our holiness comes from the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
From my Daily Devotional Readings